Bipolar disorder, formerly known as Manic Depression, is a mood disorder characterized by unusual shifts in mood, activity and energy. Individuals with this disorder experience alternating episodes of emotional highs (mania/hypomania) and lows (depression). Mania is a state in which individuals experience extreme pleasure, bursts of energy, hyperactivity. They may require little sleep, develop grandiose plans, speak erratically and even incoherently (flight of ideas). Hypomania is a less severe episode of mania. Mania or hypomania tends to affect most daily activities from cognitive abilities to social relations and hygiene. A manic episode tends to be followed by a period of emotional low i.e depression. Depressive episodes tend to make an individual feel hopeless, worthless and low on energy.
Bipolar disorders can be primarily of 3 types:
Bipolar I Disorder: In this type, an individual experiences a full manic episode that lasts at least for 7 days followed by depressive episodes that last for at least 2 weeks.
Bipolar II Disorder: This is defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes but not manic episodes.
Cyclothymic Disorder/Cyclothymia: Chronic alteration of mood elevation and depression that does not reach the severity of a manic or major depressive episode. Individuals with cyclothymia tend to experience one mood state (high/low) for at least 2 years with relatively few periods of neutral moods.
Bipolar disorder is typically diagnosed in adolescence or early adulthood. Although individuals with bipolar disorder require lifelong treatment, medication and psychotherapy can be useful for individuals to live a fairly normal life. Symptoms of bipolar disorders include alternations between emotional highs and lows. Rapid cycling bipolar disorder is characterized by four or more episodes in a year. Some of the general symptoms may include:
sleeping little but not feeling tired
a sense of distraction or boredom
missing work or school
feeling able to do anything and denying or not realizing that anything is wrong
being sociable and forthcoming and feeling able to do anything
engaging in risky behaviour,
increased libido and sexual promiscuity
feeling exhilarated or euphoric
having high levels of self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-importance
talking a lot and rapidly and flight of ideas
having “racing” thoughts that come and go quickly, and bizarre ideas that the person may act upon
Some people with bipolar disorder may spend a lot of money, use recreational drugs, consume alcohol, and participate in dangerous and inappropriate activities.
Symptoms of Depression include:
a feeling of gloom, despair, sadness and hopelessness
insomnia and sleeping problems
anxiety about minor issues
pain or physical problems that do not respond to treatment
a sense of guilt, which may be misplaced
Increased or decreased appetite
weight loss or weight gain, unrelated to dieting
extreme tiredness, fatigue
an inability to enjoy activities or interests that usually give pleasure
difficulty focusing and remembering
an inability to face going to work or school, possibly leading to underperformance
In severe cases, the individual may think about ending their life, and they may act on those thoughts. Symptoms of Bipolar disorder may differ from person to person in severity. Much like most other mental illnesses, one particular cause for Bipolar Disorder has not yet been identified. Genetic factors and environmental factors may be responsible for the onset of the disorder. Some environmental factors like the death of a beloved, abuse, harassment, stress etc can also be important factors responsible for the onset.
Treatment of Bipolar Disorder is based on the severity of the disorder. It usually involves an integration of medication and psychotherapy. Although individuals require lifelong treatment, effective functioning is possible. Medications can help manage the symptoms of mood alterations. Qualified professionals may prescribe mood stabilizers and atypical antipsychotics. Antidepressants may also be prescribed to treat depressive episodes. Psychotherapy may be also combined with pharmacological treatment. Lifestyle changes like regular exercise, appropriate and healthy diet may also be very helpful. There is no way really to prevent the disorder. Early intervention may be helpful for effective treatment. If untreated, complication and comorbid mental illness may creep their way to affect the individual. Illnesses like substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety disorders etc are common.
Bipolar disorder is a fairly common disorder and can disrupt an individual’s life severely. Working closely with a qualified mental health professional can aid with the individual’s overall health. With the increasing depiction of Bipolar disorder and how it affects people, we are witnessing increasing awareness. Movies like Heroine, Silver Linings Playbook, Girl Interrupted; TV series like Euphoria, Shameless, Homeland have depicted Bipolar Disorder and how it affects the individual. As we progress in a world with increasing mental illnesses, we need more compassion and empathy. We need to educate ourselves about the disorder and understand the importance of being non-judgemental and patient.
Barlow, D. H., Durand, V. M., Lalumiere, M. L., & Hofmann, S. G. (2021). Abnormal psychology: An integrative approach. Nelson Education Ltd.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, February 16). Bipolar disorder. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355955.
MediLexicon International. Bipolar disorder: Causes, symptoms, types, and treatment. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/37010#outlook.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bipolar Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml#part_145406.
This article on 'Bipolar Disorder' has been contributed by Smruti Pusalkar, who is a graduate Psychology student from Fergusson College. She is part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP), which is under the leadership and guidance of Anil Thomas. GIRP is an Umang Foundation Trust initiative to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression.
Smruti wishes to develop herself to be a more patient listener and a sharp observer to understand the happenings of the world and grow increasingly empathetic. She is passionate about mental health and well being and plans to pursue a career in this field. She is extremely curious about psychology and wants to spread awareness about mental health problems to help those in need.
Anil is an internationally certified NLP Master Practitioner and Gestalt Therapist. He has conducted NLP Training in Mumbai, and across 6 other countries. The NLP practitioner course is conducted twice every year. To get your NLP certification